Testing Times: hidden costs of ATF switch for hauliers

Not everyone is thrilled by closures of goods vehicle testing stations in favour of ATFs, with some operators complaining they are now having to travel much further.

Following on from part one and part two's description from hauliers of the impact the closure of test stations are having,  FTA says it receives queries from members about test availability. However, James Firth, head of road freight and enforcement policy at FTA, describes these as “sporadic rather than systemic”.

“We are now at a point where around 80% of tests are carried out at private premises, which means that if an operator only attempts to access tests through the DVSA GVTS they are significantly constraining their ability to access the market place.

“In general, an operator will find a testing site closer to them now than pre-TTP. However, in some cases where an operator had been in close proximity to a GVTS then clearly they will feel aggrieved if the distance to test is increased as a result of the changes,” he adds.

An additional point raised by hauliers is that it’s costing them more to use an ATF.

Mick Harvey, a transport co-ordinator at W Clifford Watts in Bridlington, east Yorkshire, says the facility in Hull charges £137, which is cheaper than the £177 he paid for its eight-wheeled tippers at a DVSA lane.

“But then there is a ‘lane fee’ to add to that, which is a further £47.50, giving a total cost of £184.50,” he says.

“Now, that may not seem much on its own but add to that the extra cost of diesel and the extra cost of our mechanics being out of the loop for longer, having to haul a loaded vehicle 30 miles further and it’s all adding up to extra financial costs to the haulier.”

Test fees at government run sites will increase.

Firth says ATFs can charge “pit fees” of up to £55 for an HGV and £40 for a trailer, but that the DVSA has a policy of adjusting its statutory fee structure to reflect the differing costs to them of delivering tests at GVTS.

“As the number of GVTS continues to decrease and the costs are spread over fewer customers, we can expect this differential to increase in future fee reviews,” he says. “With so few customers at GVTS now the increase could be significant.

“FTA anticipates it will not be long before the up-front cost of a test for a four-axle rigid vehicle will be more expensive at government sites than at private sites.”

The DVSA says that its policy of providing more ATFs than GVTS “reduces travel costs and vehicle downtime for operators. “Test fees at ATFs are also lower than at DVSA sites, due to lower overheads,” a spokesman adds. “DVSA sites will only close where there is sufficient local provision at ATFs.”

But this provides little comfort for Harvey: “We and many, many hauliers are going to have to travel further afield to obtain a test if the closures take place,” he warns.

Germany's minimum wage demand for visiting LGV drivers challenged by European Commission

The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Germany over its recent attempts to apply a requirement on visiting haulage firms to pay their drivers its domestic minimum wage.

While supporting the introduction of a minimum wage in Germany (currently €8.50/hour), the EC said it considered the application of the Minimum Wage Act to all transport operations that touch German territory “restricts the freedom to provide services and the free movement of goods in a disproportionate manner”.

The UK’s two trade assocations have both welcomed the EC’s move. FTA international manager Don Armour said that Germany, which initially applied the requirement to all vehicles, including those transiting the country, but has since restricted it to just those collecting or delivering to Germany itself, should “call a halt on it altogether until such times as the EC has finally decided”.

“It has been administratively cumbersome and a lot of our members got very grumpy about it in the early days,” he added. “Returns on investment are low enough as it is without such an undue burden on transport operators.”

RHA head of international affairs Peter Cullum described the German scheme as “pure bureaucracy”, adding that due to current exchange rates, anyone paying the UK minimum wage was currently meeting its requirements.

Any move by other member states to impose such schemes – France, for example, has already begun considering something similar - could ultimately result in a huge amount of paperwork, he warned. “If you compound it to every member state demanding a statement that you’re compliant with the national minimum wage of the country you’re visiting, then suddenly you have a very large number of forms and declaration going around Europe,” he said.

The German authorities now have to months in which to respond to the EC.